Ultimate Sharing Strategy: Power BI Apps

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I have previously written about some of the methods of sharing content in Power BI, such as Work spaces, Publish To Web, and Content Pack. Latest update of Power BI includes stunning update for sharing mechanism which is the best of all for sharing. In this post I’ll explain everything about new Power BI Apps; a mechanism to share the content in Power BI in a way that has security and governance together. If you want to learn more about Power BI; Read Power BI book from Rookie to Rock Star.

Power BI Sharing Methods

Till now there were about 6 methods of sharing content in Power BI, including:

I have written about some of these already (follow links above), and will write about the rest soon. Yesterday, Microsoft announced preview version of Power BI Apps, which is a new method of sharing. This is an enhancement version of two methods previously: Work spaces, and Content Packs together!

Power BI App

A Power BI app is a grouped content of Power BI (including Dashboards, Reports, Work books, and Data Sets), which is shared with organization or a group of people within organization. Let’s go through creating and consuming an App to see how it works in action.

Power BI Service in Preview Mode

At the time of writing this blog post, Power BI App is just released as preview and is not yet available as general available. You need to turn on the Preview mode of Power BI service to be able to work with it. To turn Power BI in the preview mode, Go to Setting in Power BI website;

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In Setting page, Go to Preview features section, and turn this feature on.

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App Work Space

To start creating an app, you’ll need an App Work Space. This is a new generation of work spaces in Power BI. content that you will have in this work space will be the entire App for the work space. If you already have a work space, you can use that as an App Work Space.

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app work space is like a folder that is shared with a group of people. Set a name for the app work space. You can specify if users has access to this work space via edit or read only. Please note that this way of access is only for people that you add them in the group directly, not for users of this App.

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After creating the app work space, you should see a new work space (folder) which is blank at first

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Publish Content to App

For publishing content to app, just simply publish it to the app work space. Open Power BI Desktop, go through Publish, and select the app work space created.

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After publishing content into the new app work space, you should be able to publish App from there.

Publish App

You can easily publish an app from the app work space. Just click on the work space, and then from top right hand side, select Publish App. Set a description and color for the app. You can also see how many reports, dashboards, work books, and data sets are part of this app.

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In the next tab, you will see the content. and you are also able to select the landing page for the content pack! This is a very good feature, that we haven’t had before. Now with Power BI Apps you can set a landing page for people in the group.

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You can also set group of people that you want the app to be shared with (entire organization or specific groups), and then click on Finish.

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After publishing the app, users will be able to access it immediately. However, you can share the link with them to make it easier for them to access;

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Getting App

Users can go to their Power BI account page, and click on Apps, and then Get Apps. They will be able to see all apps shared with them.

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Users can simply Get the app, and use it right away.

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with clicking on the app, users simply will be redirected to the landing page (if specified), and can explore the content in the app.

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Changes in the App

You can apply any changes you want on the content in the app work space. This will NOT affect users, until you “update app”. With the new update they will get the updated content. You can also “Unpublish” the app.

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My Thoughts on Power BI Apps

Power BI Apps comes to replace content pack and work spaces with one better solution, and it is very promising. With this new combination you will have power of both; You can use work spaces to group the content together, and give edit access to your power users. and you can also use content pack to share the content to the end users.

Power BI App is a very new feature, and many updates will come for this in the near future, including;

  • Disassociating from Office 365 groups.
  • Push app to uses without the need for them to install (get) it.
  • Selective content publish from app work space.
  • Copying content between work spaces.
  • External Sharing

Above list is based on what Power BI team’s blog post mentioned as the road map for Power BI apps.  However, I have some thoughts that I think would be great features for Power BI apps, and users will get lots of benefits from it. Here is my list:

  • Power BI Apps is not full replacement of Content Pack. Users cannot Make a Copy as they could in content pack. You might say; what is the benefit of copying? The answer is: Power BI is all about self-service. there are always some users who want to be able to create their own version of the report. With Content Pack that was simply possible. They could make a copy, and change their copy without touching the original report. (read this blog post to learn how). with the new app; they cannot change anything. they cannot make a copy. or if they are part of the group with edit access to the work space, then they CAN CHANGE the original! which is not good. It is either too much power for them, or nothing.
  • Immediate need for the app work space administrator. At the moment, users who are not admin of the group, but only have Edit access, are able to publish app! This is too much access. Consider a situation that users are using a published app, and suddenly someone by mistake updates the app! It is critical that the admin of app work space be the only person who can publish the app. Or at least can give this permission to specific group of people.

These are critical needs for Power BI Apps in my opinion. And I believe Microsoft Power BI Team will consider them and implement them quickly (as they’ve done already with many other suggestions of the community). What is your opinion about it? Do you think Apps would have been much better with some other features? name it in the comments area.

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Reza Rad
Reza Rad is an Author, Trainer, Speaker and DW/BI Consultant. He has a BSc in Computer engineering; he has more than 15 years’ experience in databases, programming and development mostly on Microsoft technologies. He is a Microsoft MVP in Data Platform for seven continues years (from 2011 till now) for his dedication in Microsoft BI. He is author of some SQL Server and BI books, and also Power BI online book; from Rookie to Rock Star.

14 Comments

  • Hi Reza, awesome review!
    For me apps are great but the inability to do adhoc reporting is a big downsize. Really hope Msft gives some kind of alternative here…

    • Hi Rui,

      Thanks for your comment :) Apps are very new already, so like yourself, I’m looking forward to see many great upcoming features in this side.
      Cheers
      Reza

  • I especially love that they will be moving away from the Office 365 groups. No more useless group spaces created in SharePoint Online behind the scenes (including mail boxes, calendars, website …).

  • Nice review Reza. I had missed this change, and you’re post made it really easy for me to come up to speed. When you say Apps include content packs, I assume you mean the way the Apps are distributed (like content packs), is that right?

    Also the name change from workspace to Apps makes more sense to me now (although I still don’t know if I like it)

    • Hi Matt,
      The pace of changes and updates in Power BI is so fast, that is hard to keep track of all changes :)
      Yes, When I say Apps includes Apps; I mean the way it is distributed to users, and the way that users will use it (They can use it as read only view, and it is all controlled through a central place, that is the place the App work space created from. If App get updated, users get updated set, if gets deleted, users will no longer have access to that content. That’s what I mean by It includes all features of content pack).
      Cheers,
      Reza

  • Hi Reza, thanks for sharing your detailed analysis so quickly.

    The inadequate admin security is still a showstopper for me, as it was with Content Packs. I;m continually surprised to see so much effort go into Power BI features, yet they ignore obvious fundamental issues like this. Hopefully that gets sorted soon.

    I’ll still be creating Office 365 Groups. Most of the teams that I work with desperately need nimble collaboration and document management tools – Office 365 does that job reasonably well. I think it also positions Power BI content as part of a project/team’s regular work flow, not an isolated tool for specialists.

    Mike

    • Thanks Mike for your feedback.
      Knowing this type of requirement is really good. Because in the new workspace app the synchronization with O365 no longer exists. However, It might be required for some groups (like for document management and collaboration as you mentioned). I believe it would be better if there be an admin option for Power BI that we can choose if our workspace apps can create O365 groups or not. rather than turning it off totally.
      I will definitely give this feedback to the team. Thanks for sharing your scenario.
      Cheers
      Reza

  • Great post, I hadn’t had time to look into the difference between apps and work spaces so this has explained it perfectly. Your thoughts at the end were awesome too, saves me having to discover that app members can publish the app themselves!

    I wish PBI would allow external sharing (via Public link) with password required access to the report, was hoping apps may be going somewhere down this path but it doesn’t appear so. Regardless, they will replace my reliance on workspaces (and creating a ton of groups) so am happy with yet another great move by Microsoft.

    • Hi Casey,

      Thanks for your feedback.
      The ability to share an APP with external users is in the road map, and it will be available in next few months I believe. it will work somehow with Azure B2B I believe, but I’m not still sure about it before it comes out.
      As you mentioned Power BI App is definitely is a great move, it just needs some tailoring around it to be a perfect strategy for sharing.
      Cheers
      Reza

  • Hi Reza,
    Excellent post!!! Will Power BI apps carry the Row Level Security to the Apps?
    If not, how can we implement the same type of security (RLS) in Apps?
    Thanks, Sam

    • Hi Sam
      Thanks.
      RLS will go through app for readers perfectly. but users who have EDIT access int the app work space will see everything regardless of RLS

      Cheers
      Reza

  • Reza,
    If I am manually updating data from a power bi desktop file, do I have to refresh my data in desktop and first publish to the app, and then go into the app and publish the app? ( making all data updates a 2 step process even if there are no changes in the design of the desktop file?) I do not currently use a gateway.

    • Hi Pete,
      Data will be refreshed through data set scheduled refresh. and you need a gateway if your data source is on-premises. this is the right way of refreshing your data set.
      Cheers
      Reza

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